Samsung Said to Near EU Antitrust Settlement on Patents
Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)’s offer to settle a European Union antitrust investigation over key patents requires only minor changes to win approval from regulators, according to two people familiar with the case.
The EU will tell Samsung this month that rivals and other interested parties gave mostly positive feedback in a review of its pledge to stop seeking injunctions in Europe in disputes with competitors over patents required for products that comply with global technology standards, said the people, who asked not to be named because the process is confidential.
Samsung, which has clashed with Apple Inc. over patents, may have to address concerns over how it will handle disputes over the technology, one of the people said. A settlement would end a probe that’s lasted nearly two years and would also avoid possible fines for the world’s biggest smartphone maker.
The EU is cracking down on possible patent abuses as Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Motorola Mobility (MMI) unit, Microsoft Corp., Apple and Samsung trade victories in divergent court rulings across the world on intellectual property. The EU’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia has said he’s targeting the “rules of the game” to prevent companies from unfairly leveraging their inventions to thwart rivals.
The Samsung case is “the first of these cases we will probably decide,” Almunia told reporters on Dec. 9. He said the EU will discuss “possible improvements” to the company’s offer in the coming weeks and that he hoped for a final decision soon.
Rhee So-eui, a spokeswoman for the company, declined to comment.
The Suwon, South Korea-based company promised in October that it wouldn’t seek injunctions to block sales of smartphones and tablets using patents that are part of a technology standard for five years against companies willing to seek fair licensing terms. After Samsung’s rivals and customers agree that the company’s offer allays antitrust concerns, regulators can make the offer binding on Samsung and end the EU probe as well as any threat of a fine.
The EU opened an investigation into Samsung in January 2012 on injunctions it took in 2011 to block sales of Apple products using Samsung’s third-generation mobile-phone technology patents. Regulators say Apple was willing to license the patents on fair terms and Samsung’s injunctions violated competition rules.
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